Thursday 28 November 2013

Hello from under the monsoon,

Rain, heat, humidity, thunderstorms and mosquitoes; it's the Monsoon Season in north Queensland,
and of course a cyclone has been around. Cyclone Alessia formed over the Kimberly Coast last week and on Thursday moved into the Gulf of Carpentaria, it is now heading south as a rain depression bringing drought breaking rain to parched areas of western Queensland. As the Monsoon moves over us we are left in a vacuum of humid calm. Relief can be found by collecting a bucket of mangoes, sitting out under a shady tree and enjoying; its called 'mango madness'. It feels so good when the sweat from the brow blends with the dripping juices of ripe mango.

Matriarch Cassowary
 Jessie is also having her fill of mangoes and wax jambus. Tropical fruits are ripening in the summer heat and without doubt they are the energy foods designed for summer. Sour sop, Jack fruit, guava, pawpaw, banana, pineapples, passion fruit, dragon fruit, gramachanna, star apple and many more. A summer feast for all and plenty for Jessie and her friends.

There is still lots of rainforest fruits available and only that Jessie has taken to a spot of fishing again
that I see her when she tracks through the orchard and has a feed on the way. In the photo on the right  I found Jessie returning from the mangroves, note the wet mud on her feet. I have seen cassowary footprints on the beach every visit  as it is cassowary crabbing season.

Liz G came out to Coquette Point this week and shot a video of cassowary 'Q' eating from a strawberry tree in the front yard of a house at the top of the range. The fruits, although small, are very sweet and a particular favourite of the cassowaries.

The crocodiles are up and out of the water they appear to be moving into the swamps to nest. I saw a very large slide and a waller on one of my dawn walks. No sign of the crocodile but the marks were below the high tide mark so were no more than a few hours old.

Now, while you think I'm  reckless walking at dawn in the mangroves,  let me say after my brush with leptospirosis last year, it put things into perspective for me, while one must not take stupid risks, at least crocodiles are big enough to see, whereas the bacteria that almost took my life last year can't be seen by the naked eye. I know what I'm most concerned about. Meanwhile, millions are being spent in removing crocodiles from our waterways and little is spent on programs to lessen the risk of tropical bacterial diseases like leptospirosis.

                                               Another exciting
week with jumping spiders and I photographed four new ones, at least for me.

 The little fella on the right was as large as my fingernail and iridescent. Even the green stripes across his head shone in the sunlight and the iridescent colour extended to his legs and yellow palps.  I have photographed a similar jumping spider before but I believe this one is the other sex. I think it is Cosmophasis micarioides, however the palps of this species are described as white whereas this little fella has iridescent yellow palps.

The beauty on the left is quite large and I think it is Cytaea xanthopus. He was easy to photograph, not jumping around as most spiders do, I found him on a sour-sop fruit tree.

Jumping spiders are so diverse in their colours, forms and size. The jumping spider, right, is no  bigger than the hair on my arm.

This metallic blue spider tends to like man made structures and is often seen around houses.  I have photographed the male of this species before but not, until now, the female.

Meanwhile, the male white flower spider is on the hunt in my day lilies.

He hides upside down on the pollen filament waiting for an insect to feast and he doesn't need to wait long.

A tiny native bee its legs covered in pollen is easy prey for Mr White-flower spider.

Meanwhile Mrs White-flower spider has built a nest.
Most days she strides the nest in a protective manner. But, the slightest drop of rain sends her into the shelter.

This is the third week of her nesting and no sign of spiderlings. I check on her two or three times a day and I have never seen her hunting or eating during this time of her retreat.

Mrs Butcher bird is at her vocal best as she patiently sets on eggs in the hollow of a paper bark tree, melaleuca leucadendra, when she leaves the nest she vocalises her intention to the male and he replies to her call with a long melodic song. The pair hunt together in nearby trees before she returns to the nest.

On other occasions, particularly early in the morning following the arrival of the foraraging metallic starlings the female butcher bird leaves her nest and sits under the, butterfly plant, macaranga tanarius while watching the starlings and quickly eating the shower of macaranga seed falling from the carless starling's feeding.

Butcher birds have a bad reputation for eating other small birds particularly sun birds, however, they have a varied diet which also includes fruit, seed, insects and reptiles.

When I heard the cries of a frog this week I went to investigate and found butcher bird on the attack. When he saw me he released the frog and a sore and sorry white lipped tree frog made her escape to the pond.

Butcher birds are no angles but their melodious notes are elaborate and delivered in such a way that I have no doubt of their ability to communicate complex messages; if only I could understand.

White-lipped tree frog recovered from her injuries and is still in the pond protected by the waterlily pads.

The Coquette Point fishing mates continue to fish together at sunrise on the beach. Black Bitten observing from a distance and waiting for the opportunity of a carless fish moving close to her while Pelican and Little Black Cormorant pair up for mutual benefit. 

The gull-billed terns are still sleeping on the sandbar at night and fly to the freshwater wetlands every morning.

Only four Little Terns have arrived at Coquette Point this year. These birds are endangered through loss of habitat and it makes me very cross when I see some locals, still ignoring the signs and walking their dogs over the shorebird rookery. Some people have such a small heart they cannot bring themselves to care for little birds that travel thousands of kilometres to lay their eggs on our beaches.  Soon there will be nowhere for birds like the little terns to breed, what an indictment on our society!

Jeanett Dall sent me some photos of her bush stone curlews at Flying Fish Point. The curlews come into Jeanett's backyard and enjoy a bath in a saucer. It is surprising to see how relaxed the chick is laying down with its legs splayed out. Thank you Jeanett for sharing these photos.

Who wouldn't want a swim in this hot weather?

Last week our 'Get Up Day of Climate Action' had a very colourful  and positive attendance and we planted trees around the Turtle Triage Centre. Above left to right, Jenny Dall, James Epong, Margaret Worrall, Henry Epong, Steve Epong and Nellie Epong.

                                                                                              Mandy Walsh joined us and said she wants climate action now.

 Greg Neville, Ruth Lipscombe and Brenda Neville shouted out loud for Climate Action. I won't repeat everything Ruth had to say!!!!!!

Good rain and a few thunderstorms this week has sent the frogs into  mating mania. The frog choir is in full swing and I don't think they will stop performing until the wet season is over.

High school students have finished for the year and it never fails as soon as years 11 & 12 are out young hoons use the Coquette Point Road as a racetrack. Hopefully the Anti-hoon Legislation will catch up with them before they hurt themselves or another road user.

One car has some damage as it collided with our beautiful new sign. I hope the damage to the vehicle was costly to repair.

                                                                         Enjoy the wet season,

Saturday 23 November 2013

Hello from the new Turtle Triage Centre at Coquette Point,

Yesterday the Mandubarra Land and Sea Inc opened a turtle triage centre at Coquette Point. For many years Mandubarra  have been active in rescuing marine turtles and now thanks to a grant from the Queensland Government Minister Andrew Powell, MP,  Minister for the Environment and Heritage Protection of Queensland,  the new triage centre has been built.

The centre was opened by councillor Mark Noland of the Cassowary Coast Council.

Nellie Epong with son James, right photo,  proudly displayed the letter from Minister Powell and Nellie spoke to the invited guests of her pride in what has been achieved by Mandubarra and her hope for the future of young Aboriginal people of the

Dr Jennie Gilbert has mentored Mandubarra over the years and has shared her technical knowledge and exchanged the traditional wisdom of Mandaburra.  Dr Jennie Gilbert and her husband run a large veterinary clinic in Cairns and Jennie is also a researcher of marine turtles at James Cook University.
 In 2000, she and fellow marine biologist Paul Barnes started one of Australia's largest voluntary 

turtle rehabilitation centres with an attached interpretation centre.

 With Jennie's help Mandubarra have successfully rescued and rehabilitated 15 marine sea turtles, many with floating syndrome, wonderfully they have been successfull and released  the turtles back into the wild ocean at the point of their rescue. Many of the sea turtles found are full of plastics so it is an important remainder that we must all  prevent our waste from ending up in our waterways and eventually in the Ocean.

Marine turtles nest on many of the beaches of the Cassowary Coast and Russell Constable took this photo last week of a turtle coming ashore at Bramston Beach to lay eggs. It was 5pm and unusual for a turtle to emerge at that time of day.    So 

It is a wake up call that our beaches should never become highways for vehicles; beaches are complex ecosystems and habitats for marine creatures above and below the sand. Russell watched while this turtle crawled to the dune line dug out a large hole and laid her eggs, before returning exhausted to the Ocean. Thank you for sharing this photo

Today 'Crewcut' has been restored by a new
owner and is as good as new. A strong
50 years ago Friday, 22 November 1963, I sailed into Samari Island aboard the 23foot cutter 'Crewcut'. It was the start of a journey hitchhiking around the world on boats. New Zealander, Denis Lobb was the owner builder of 'Crewcut' and I joined the boat at Hayman Island.
 I had just completed hitchhiking around Australia and at 20 years of age the world was to be my 'oyster'. Looking back I wouldn't change anything. It was such a privilege to visit remote places, only accessible by small boats. Over the years many communities made me welcome and the amazing thing was wherever I went the less people had the more they shared.

 I hope 'Crewcut' will give new owner Noel many weekends of enjoyment.
The first cyclone of the season TC Alessia formed off the Kimberly Coast this week and is expected to move across the top end and into the Gulf by Friday. If it is performs as predicted it will bring drought breaking rain to some of the worst affected areas of Western Queensland. However, at the moment the cyclone is experiencing dry wind inflows and unfavourable conditions for development.

 I have computer problems with my Mac and it will not Boot Up! All my wildlife photos are loaded on it so if I sort out the problems there will be a bonus lot next week.
 That's all, share some love,

Saturday 16 November 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

A few drops of rain this week, 7mm, has ramped up the humidity and sent the mosquitoes into a breeding frenzy. Summer mango-madness is here early this year.

I think every year we say its hotter, earlier; earlier than the year before, so if you are concerned about the changes you are seeing to the climate then join me tomorrow, 17 November, 10 am at 393 Coquette Point and be part of a GetUp National Day of Climate Action. We are going to plant trees, take a walk on the beach then enjoy a tropical fruit brunch; come in heatwave-themed clothing, hat and sunglasses. If you are able make a sign and bring it with a message to the Abbot Government about Climate Action.

Mega Typhoon Hiyan which devastate the central Philippines Islands on Friday 8 is a wake up call  to all peoples living along coastlines within Monsoonal Zones. The large Filipino community in Australia have rallied, along with many other Australians, to help those who have lost everything in Hiyan.

Gloria, who many of you know from the nursery, sends her sincere thanks to everyone who phoned asking about her family. Although Gloria's family have lost their crops and have sustained damage to their home, they are all safe, Cebu Island where they live was not so badly affected by Hiyan.

This week the Cassowary Coast Council and the Innisfail SES distributed a Disaster Preparedness Kit with a large cyclone tracking map. If you haven't received one they are available from CCRC office and SES.

While I have received lots of reports of brief sightings of cassowaries over the last month the birds are not, at the moment, venturing down to the tip of Coquette Point. When I don't see them I know there is plenty of food in the Moresby Range National Park and they are content to remain safely within their rainforest home.

Alan from the Goldsborough Valley, who visited me today, saw a cassowary beside the road at the top of the Moresby Range, he managed to take a few photos on his phone and I have identified the bird as the matriarch Peggy. I have not seen Peggy for over twelve months so it is good to have another sighting. She was crossing the road from the National Park and went down towards the Johnstone River.

Margaret D has seen Brown Cone a couple of times near Ninds Creek, where he normally hangs out and he has one very small chick. There has also been reports of a Cassowary with three chicks and another one with two chicks, no photos as yet.

I was very happy to see the juvenile Beach Stone Curlew again this week. For the first time in years we have an addition to the Beach Stone Curlew population at Coquette Point. No doubt the 'No Dogs on Beach' sign has helped this little bird survive. However, some people are ignoring the sign and continue to walk their dog on the Coquette Point Beach.

Mum and Dad Beach Stone Curlew are never far away from the juvenile even though he likes to explore the estuary by himself.

If you go down to the beach on a making tide and a waxing moon you may see the Ghost Crabs frolicking on the sand.

I saw old horn-eyed Ghost Crab sitting out of his burrow looking at the juveniles crabs scurrying across the beach. The horny stalks on the top of the Ghost Crab's eyes grow and lengthen as the crab ages.

A young buck emerged from his hole and danced across the sand.

A Sand Bubbler crab challenged him and they appeared to dance across the beach to a beat I could not hear.

Horn eyed slowly backed up towards his burrow and retreated.

Another horn-eyed pocked his head up to see what all the fuss was about.

Sand Bubbler returned to rolling sand balls while keeping an eye on her burrow.

While old Horn-eyed  didn't move from his burrow and watched the antics with scorn-full eyes.

Just after sunrise I stumbled on Nankeen Night Heron fishing in the nursery pond. I startled him and he flew up to a coconut tree where the early morning sunlight shone on his damp feathers.

He turned his head ever so slightly to display his long white head plume.

These birds are nomadic hunters in the Wet Tropics and the only breeding colony recorded is at the mouth of the Bohle River.

Although I have checked every morning he has not returned to my pond, even though it holds plenty of fish.

Summer is diffidently insect heaven and the increased humidity this week
brought the conditions suitable for insect activity. Longicorn beetles have taken to the air.

Baby stick insects are on every leaf and this one has a red mite attached to his foreleg.

Spiny leaf stick insects are wearing their best camouflage outfits.

The wingless female generally stays on a tree and waits for the male to discover her.  The males are able to find the females with ultraviolet vision.

I saw crested hawk swoop down and catch a male stick insect which he quickly dispatched. One female will be waiting a long time for a male.

Crested Hawk eat the male stick insects in two minutes, discarding only the wings.

Yellow Oriole is singing love songs from high in the rainforest canopy.
It was not difficult to find this bird as he called high musical notes to a female deep within the rainforest. When she answered him he replied with longer and higher notes until the early morning air was filled with the happy song.

Spotted cat-bird was wary and would not come out of the rainforest canopy but his presence could easily be heard with his loud, persistent, cat-like calls.

These two bird's calls are signature markers of the Wet Tropics Rainforest.

My 'old' mate Pat Sheers rang me this week to remind me about the 30th Anniversary of the Cape Tribulation Blockade. If you were involved in the Blockade you may like to come to the anniversary get-together on the 30th November. Accommodation is available at the Ferntree Resort 4098000.

Pat also reminded me that this week is the 20th anniversary of the infamous Foxtail Palm seed affair. Pat was the National Park Ranger at the Daintree at the time and it was his job to carry out surveillance on the smuggling of wildlife from National Parks. It was during one of these operations he discovered individuals removing Foxtail Palm seeds. The Daintree was a wild place in those days.

I hope to see you tomorrow at the Climate Action Tree Planting;